Not long ago, I was a situation that most people wouldn’t think was all that scary, but, for some reason, I found myself experiencing a deep, visceral fear and it kept increasing. Then, the sequence of events took a surprising turn, which was similar in a number of ways to what I’ve experienced before in two of three pivotal experiences that I describe in my memoir that led me to feel a deeper and deeper spiritual connection with God.
I produce a monthly magazine, usually a straight ten- to twelve-day project due the first of the month, but the June 1st issue had problems and it took most of Monday, June 2nd, to finish it.
I’d received an offer to submit a story for consideration in an anthology called “I Am Subject” and I’d been given an extension on their deadline, so I had to keep pushing hard to get it done that week. My oldest daughter, Jade, was also in China for the first time and she’d gotten sick. Our text conversations were running late into the evening and she needed me a couple of times in the middle of the night, so by Friday afternoon I was exhausted.
I tried to rest a couple of times starting around 4:30 p.m., but I kept finding reasons to get up. Jade was texting me to fill me in on how everything was going, and I found myself struggling with a decision about going to the Center for Spiritual Living (CSL) to water their flowers that night or to wait until Saturday morning.
I’d signed up to help care for CSL’s flowers over the summer, and while it was typically just a 30-minute job, I’d talked to another woman, Sylvia, about meeting that evening because she was going to do some weeding and move plants that were becoming badly overgrown.
At 6:39 p.m., I posted this on Twitter: It’s been a long week. Got lots done, but just hit the wall. Maybe I should try hitting the window, instead. Or the door. Or the sack.
I rested some more, then at about 7:45 p.m. I decided I just needed to go. I called Sylvia and she said it was fine, that she’d be there, so I told her I’d be there at about 8:15 p.m. The previous Sunday was the first time we’d met and all I knew about her was that she was just visiting the area. It seemed kind of ridiculous, but for some reason I was uncomfortable with the idea of being at the church alone with her, so I asked my younger daughter, Amber, to go with me. My hair looked terrible, so I spent a few minutes on it, then I put on some lipstick and changed clothes.
When Amber and I arrived at CSL, Sylvia wasn’t there, so I started watering the planters at the back of the building. I finished those and was watering a long row of flowers on the west side of the building when Sylvia arrived.
After I introduced her to Amber, Sylvia turned to her and said, “Well. Aren’t you beautiful.”
I continued walking up the row watering, trying to decide whether or not Sylvia’s comment was kind or creepy, and asked her what brought her to our area. She said she was visiting a daughter who wasn’t willing to travel to see her in Ecuador. I asked her about living there, if she felt safe, and she said she felt more comfortable there than in the U.S., that the people there were very kind and generous. She said she’d started gardening about a year prior and usually spent about 10 hours a day at it.
I’ve done a fair amount of gardening and I don’t know anyone who does it 10 hours a day, so I found myself questioning whether or not to believe her.
As we approached the front of the building to water the two containers there, Sylvia started talking about building planter boxes that would span the front of the building so she could transplant some of the overgrown flowers, a project that was news to me. I had no interest in building planters and didn’t think she’d even talked to the owner of the building, but she became extremely animated and explained a couple of times that she was in marketing, so this was just the kind of thing she did. She was sure the planters would make the building more inviting. She kept repeating herself, and each time she did, it seemed like she was draining her words of meaning.
When I didn’t offer any solutions about how to get the job done, Sylvia turned to Amber and asked if she had friends who would be willing to help. Each time she came up with a direction that Amber mentioned might be possible, I found myself stepping in to discourage the conversation, explaining to her why none of her ideas would work, but she kept bringing up options, trying to figure out how to get her “planter vision” accomplished.
I was finished with the watering, so I went around the side of the building to put the hose away and as I struggled to unscrew the hose, I realized Sylvia and Amber hadn’t followed. I suddenly had a feeling I’d had years before when I’d been in a crowd and couldn’t locate Jade for a couple of minutes. Any parent who has had this happen knows that our minds struggle with the idea and, as we begin to register that we can’t find our child, fear explodes into panic. Every moment that goes by makes us sick with the idea that the empty view in front of us might mean we’ll never see our child again.
I walked quickly up to the front of the building and peered around the corner. I thought Sylvia saw me and that made me even more uncomfortable, so I turned back around and told myself I was overreacting. As I started to wind up the hose, I couldn’t tolerate my anxiety, so I forced myself to call out for Amber, asking her to come help me, as if I couldn’t do it myself.
Amber and I collected the hose and we all headed to the back of the building to get the gardening tools that Sylvia needed. They were inside and I felt uncomfortable opening the door to the church, but I kept telling myself, I was being silly. The tools were in the front of a closet that was fairly close to the door, so it only took a minute to grab the small plastic box that contained one pair of gloves, a hand spade and clippers. Sylvia commented on how quickly we’d gotten them and what meager tools she had to work with as we headed back out.
Then, just as we reached the bottom of the entry stairs, I looked up and saw one of the members of the spiritual center, Karis, walking toward us. At the same time, my phone rang. I looked at the number and didn’t recognize it, so I thought about letting it take a message. I think I said that out loud, then I said, “No, I’ll just quickly see who it is.” It turned out to be Carrie, another member of CSL, calling to talk about coordinating what was needed for Sunday morning.
I joked to everyone, “It’s a party! Carrie’s on the phone!” We all laughed as I told Carrie I’d call her back. Then, Karis showed us what she’d purchased at the local art fair—two paintings, each with a black crow on fields of blue and gold. We admired them for a couple of minutes, and Karis mentioned that the blue would match a color she and her now deceased husband had chosen for one of her walls. She tucked them back into their packaging and headed to her car, which she’d parked in the CSL parking lot.
To my dismay, Sylvia started in again about the planters. She wandered over to the building on the opposite side of the parking lot and called for Amber to come and see what she was looking at. Amber headed over there, so I did too, feeling like I needed to stay close to her. Sylvia pointed out a pile of wood scraps that didn’t seem to me like they’d work for planters, but Sylvia and Amber started talking about it, like, sure, if the people in this building didn’t want the scraps they could use them, screw them together, and stain them. I thought that would look terrible, but I couldn’t seem to make myself say, “This is ridiculous. Amber and I are not going to do this.” I couldn’t seem to figure out how to get myself out of there without appearing rude. Sylvia wanted to find out the name of the business, so we walked around to the front of the building as Sylvia pressed on, coming up with more ideas about how to make her project work.
Then, when we got back to the CSL parking lot, Sylvia told me to give her number to Amber, so Amber could coordinate with her from school. I was stunned. Everyone knows that is beyond anything a stranger should be asking. Meeting with an unknown adult often leads to tragedy for teens and here she thought she was going to get Amber’s number from me. Somehow I managed to dodge the question and, thankfully, Amber didn’t pull out her phone. I finally managed to say it was time for us to go and Amber and I headed home.
Sylvia had a mesmerizing, commanding attitude, and both Amber and I had a difficult time resisting it. To me, this was also a classic case of someone trying to use the trust that comes from an association with a church.
This is the second time I’ve had really strong, intuitive feelings about a person and it’s a really odd thing to experience. To be in a place where I was having those feelings and having nothing really evident that seemed to warrant that level of fear. As it has been with a number of other experiences I’ve had over the years, the only explanation I have is that I believe God was trying to make me see that something was wrong. Even though I kept denying my feelings, I was still hypervigilant.
Then, while I was at the spiritual center on a Friday night at 8:45 p.m., it was incredible to have two women who were also members of the spiritual center “appear” simultaneously. I talked to someone about the timing of the sequence of events that brought all of us together in that place, at that moment, and I was told it defies most people’s attempts at even trying to calculate the odds. That all of the events occurred in such a manner that Sylvia, Amber and I were at the back of the center at just the right moment so Karis didn’t just get in her car and leave. In many respects it gave me comfort. It made me feel like I have really incredible spiritual friends, with God right on top of that list. Carrie and Karis had no idea what I was dealing with, they just knew about the fun moment, but for me the experience went deeper. It felt like they had been directed to check on me and that God was saying, once again, “Yeah, I’m still bringing it on.” It was a wonderful validation to have Carrie and Karis there as part of one of the events I’ve been telling them have been occurring in my life.
Looking back at the quotes I’ve displayed graphically about fear, I hope this one makes as little sense to you as it does to me: “The only difference between fear and excitement is your attitude about it.” The one that makes the most sense to me is the one attributed to thatonerule, “It’s okay to be afraid, but don’t let fear dictate who you are, or change what you can become.” Even though I had quite a bit of fear about the situation, I kept moving ahead, however, there wasn’t any point where I lost sight of the fact that I have concerns as a single woman and mother. I didn’t make a decision to “just do it,” I took someone with me.
You may also be wondering why I didn’t leave if I was having such strong, negative feelings. That aspect of this event is similar to what I’ve experienced during a couple of the other events that are in my memoir. After it happened more than once and I could see the similarities, I developed some ideas about it in the memoir I’m trying to get published.* I hope you’ll continue to follow to find out the answer to that question and to see how I began to recognize these wonderful experiences that I can only describe as “story-gifts.”
As I was working on this story, I realized that both of the women who showed up that day from CSL have names that start with a sound-syllable “care.”
We’ve also connected a number of times in other ways. Carrie and I are on the same shift for set-up on Sunday mornings, so we have been working together to do those tasks and we’ve talked a number of times on the phone about our lives. Karis is the only other woman I’ve met who has shared stories about events that are similar to some of the ones I’ve been experiencing.
Note: Sylvia left the area about a week after this. It was my understanding that she had intended to be here for the summer.
*My memoir focuses around my spiritual journey, but it also includes the process of recognizing that I am a writer, as well as the decisions I’ve made and ideas I’ve developed as I’ve viewed my life and my spiritual path through a feminist perspective. It includes, among some other remarkable experiences, three events from 1998 to 2012 and the process I went through to slowly, finally, recognize and accept that for some crazy reason God is active in my life.
Abbreviated version presented to Center for Spiritual Living on June 8, 2014.
Also, please check out the other posts about my spiritual journey and experiences.
It’s been a struggle to figure out how to tell my story. In 2012 an experience occurred that compelled me to try. In 1998 I had an experience that was profound, but I didn’t know what to do with it. In 2002, another. When I left my marriage in 2004, my life shifted dramatically, but I kept dismissing everything that was happening because that’s what I was taught to do. To not believe that what was happening to me was coming from God or, perhaps more so, that no one would believe me.
Since April 2014, a couple of remarkable experiences have occurred that are helping to show some of what I am experiencing. I believe what I have to share in my memoir will help shift how people see God and that shift will have an impact on unnecessary harm that’s being inflicted on many people around the world. I understand there many people who now follow spiritual concepts that revolve around how we think— and they involve ideas that we don’t need to think, we need to just be; that we can think our way to becoming rich; and that all anyone needs is love—and I will be sharing my thoughts about all of that soon.
I hope you’ll follow! There’s so much more I want to share!
Please contact me if you would like to share your e-mail to be put on an e-mail list. I will be starting a small newsletter soon and will only use e-mail for announcements of posts or progress on my book.